Chino 9-10-year-olds hold their own at State
Representing District 10 for the third straight year in the Little League State Tournament for 9- and 10-year-olds, Chino Valley was on a mission to be more competitive this time around.
True, the team had come away with two wins in each of its last two appearances, but there were some lopsided scores mixed in against the top teams. This year in Tucson, Chino Valley won twice again, but there was a major improvement in the big games.
"There wasn't another team there that was better than us," Chino Valley coach Bob David said. "If we would've had a little better tournament, we would've been in the running with the big towns."
Indeed, a few breaks here and there and Chino Valley would have advanced out of pool play into the championship round. Only the top two teams in each of the two pools advance, Chino finished third.
"In a way, they were really disappointed," David said. "I knew I took a good team down there this year and Gilbert American was who everybody was talking about. But we couldn't buy a break in some of those close games. The one thing that could go wrong and hit you would."
Although a loss, the 6-5 extra-inning game vs. Gilbert American-West may be the most memorable. It was close all the way and Gilbert won in the seventh on a throwing error.
Chino Valley had clutch hitting problems so David tried to utilize his team speed to create other scoring opportunities. Late in regulation, Chino tied the game 5-5 when D.J. Parker stole home.
Matt Frank and Tyler David combined for a stellar pitching performance that held Gilbert's offense in check most of the way. Gilbert ended up undefeated in pool play.
Chino Valley opened the tourney with a 10-2 loss to Chandler National. Coach David attributed his team's tough time to having a one-month layoff. The score seemed worst than it was thanks to Chandler scoring seven runs in one inning.
With an 0-2 record, Chino Valley had to get things going Monday and did just that in an 11-0 rout of Pinetop. Josh Custodio tossed a three-hitter and had six strikeouts in a game shortened to four innings on the mercy rule.
Offensively, Tyler David and Dustin Berger hit back-to-back doubles to open the game. Custodio also had a double in the first and all three scored runs. By the end of the second, Chino held a 5-0 lead. Berger, Michael Garcia and Tyler David had RBI hits in that frame.
Chino Valley poured on three more in each of the last two innings. Garcia had a key two-RBI single in the third and Tyler Foley's hit ended the game on the 10-run rule in the fourth.
Custodio and Tanner Jackson opened the fourth with walks and Cody Douglas followed with an RBI double. Foley's hit scored Jackson and Douglas to end it.
Chino Valley lost an 8-7 decision to Douglas on Tuesday. Frank went the distance at pitcher in a see-saw game. Douglas rallied in the fifth for three runs to take the lead. In the sixth, Chino had a shot at tying it up, but a Douglas outfielder threw out a baserunner at third base to sidestep the threat.
Tyler David had three hits in the contest while Frank and Douglas each had two hits. Frank had a pair of triples.
In the final game Wednesday, Chino Valley went into extra innings to down the Peoria Sidewinders, 5-4. Tyler David went six innings, striking out four. Berger relieved and shut down Peoria in the seventh.
Douglas tied the game 4-4 in the sixth when he scored on a single by Tyler David.
Chino won it in the seventh with another steal of home plate, this time by Frank. Frank had a big day at the plate going 3-for-3 with a triple.
The defense came up big in the bottom of the seventh. Peoria put a runner on third with one out, but Chino threw him out at home on a play from Burger to Frank, who applied the tag.
"Dustin had to work to field it and he got it home to Matt, who was playing catcher," Coach David said. "They had a hell of a play at home plate. That would have been the tying run."
Frank had the top batting average in the tourney for Chino Valley, compiling a .529 batting average. Other top hitters included Tyler David (.500), Foley (.500), Douglas (.500), Custodio (.438) and Garcia (.429).